CUYAHOGA FALLS — For what seemed like an eternity, the Hudson girls basketball team dominated Cuyahoga Falls no matter where the two teams met.
Did a 180-degree turn between the two longtime rivals take place? It’s probably too early to tell.
But the Black Tigers are no longer punching bags for the once mighty Explorers. In fact, Falls seems to be doing all of the punching now.
The host Black Tigers earned a 52-44 victory over the Explorers Saturday at Coach Tom Jones Court.
Trailing 11-8 after one period of play, Falls, which has won three of its last four against its rivals to the north, went on an 18-4 run to take control of the game. The Black Tigers kept their double-digit lead most of the way to improve to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the Suburban League National Conference.
"We appreciate the league as a whole," Falls head coach Joe Nowak said. "We realize that everybody we play is a quality program. For us to keep them [the Explorers] in the low 40s, it means a lot to us. Any kind of league win for us is important, especially against a team that has played really well against really good teams."
The catalyst during the Black Tigers’ run was senior guard Raygan Corrigall, who knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in the second period. Corrigall finished with a game-high 18 points.
"I think we have a group that has the capability of being able to score in bunches," Nowak said. "The really good thing about that is how unselfish the group is to let other people succeed as well."
Falls’ junior forward Emma Brustoski added 10 points and was her usual active self on defense. Brustoski had seven steals, including a few that led to fast-break points for the Black Tigers.
"It’s not secret: She’s our best athlete," Nowak said of Brustoski. "She had her best week of practice [last week] maybe ever. She’s a really good on-the-ball defender. She uses her quickness to her advantage. She knows how to use it to be effective.
"She’s as easy-going as you can find. At the same time, she’s a tremendous competitor and a really good athlete. If just helps us out even more when she can help us out on both ends of the floor."
Hudson, which dropped to 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the conference, got 10 points from senior guard Sarah Hinkle. A total of 10 players scored at least two points for the Explorers, who were missing sophomore guard Ali Menendez in the second half. Menendez played limited minutes in the first half despite flu-like symptoms.
Falls’ senior guard Chelsea Huffman, who has scored more than 1,000 points during her stellar career, struggled with her shot. However, Huffman was still her usual effective self, thanks to her ability to find open people throughout the afternoon.
"I think Chelsea very much understands the importance of being as well-rounded as she is," Nowak said. "I think she has taken on even more of a sense of pride in being able to not only get others involved, but enjoy their success. Her ability to be as effective offensively is going to happen because of the people around her, as well."
One could argue the Black Tigers’ early success has been in the making for quite some time. Thanks to veteran standouts such as Corrigall, Huffman, Brustoski and senior forward Olivia Lemmon, Falls has made rapid progress in recent years.
"I don’t think there is any substitute for experience," Nowak said. "For Raygan, Chelsea, Lemmon, they are three four-year players at this level. I think that type of experience shows. They don’t let a lot of things necessarily get to them.
"It’s fun to have a group that has a number of people who can do well in a number of different ways. To have a number of weapons out there, I think it makes us tough to defend.
"It’s going to be important for us to continue to play like that, continue to move the ball and really continue to trust each other. I think that trust was really on display, especially in the first three and a half quarters."
Falls, which plans to move to the American Conference at the outset of the 2021-22 school year, wants to continue to give its National Conference rivals fits before leaving the conference for good.
That was rarely the case for the Black Tigers prior to the last few years. There was once a time when Falls was completely overmatched against its National Conference foes.
Not any more.
"I think we’re having fun," Nowak said. "At the same time, I think we’re appreciative of the success and realizing that the hard work is paying off. That has been super important for us. Coming every day to put forth the effort and realize that we can play with almost any team that’s on our schedule, I think that’s a credit to all the kids we’ve had in the past and present."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.